Unique Partnership Between The Ohio Hop Farm, Local Malthouse And Market Garden Brewery Leads To Specialty Ohio-Made Beer


WADSWORTH, Ohio – It’s one thing to say you want to “stay local” when shopping for food in a store or on a menu. It is quite another to roll up your sleeves and cultivate, care for, produce and sell a product that is entirely from a specific area.

But when the product is beer, well, it’s easier to sell.

Thanks to the commitment of a Cleveland brewery, dedicated hop growers and a year-old urban malt house, a collaboration to produce a local craft beer is just that – truly local.

With an emerging resurgence in hop cultivation and brewers willing to engage with neighboring farmers, making a local beer is feasible and happening. This fall, Cleveland’s Market Garden Brewery launched All-Ohio IPA, which has its roots on a hop farm down the road in Wadsworth.

It takes agriculture, history, chemistry and gardening to produce hops. The delicate little green leaf cone a little bigger than a bead forms the bitter backbone of so many styles of beer. But there’s an economic spinoff that makes plant growth imperative: The state has more than 250 breweries, but only a few hundred acres of hops. About 7,000 are needed, said Mike and Jenny Napier. The Napiers own and operate Barn Talk Hops in Medina County.

“Being locally grown and sourcing locally is a huge responsibility,” Mike said.

Hop cultivation means less dependence on large farms outside the area. It all depends on supply and demand.

Mike Napier examines the hop plants he and his wife Jenny grow.

“There’s enough of the pie for everyone,” Mike said.

Jenny puts it bluntly: “We need more producers.

By the late 1800s, the state had 25,000 to 30,000 acres of hops, the Napiers said. They have become almost forgotten.

“A lot of people say ‘Do they grow in Ohio?’ Yes they grow in Ohio. The quality is there, “said Mike.” We are not reinventing the wheel, we are trying to reintroduce it into society. “

Two forces – one natural, the other artificial, each equally bitter against beer drinkers in their own way – conspired against hops: downy mildew and prohibition. The first is checked, the second is gone, and the beer – well, the beer is here to stay.

About hop processing

Hop grape varieties are to beer what grape varieties are to wine. They can stretch the taste profile of a beer, ranging from the earthy character to the “super juicy and fruity” flavors that come from Citra hops, said Mike Foran of Market Garden.

It takes about three years for the hop hoppers – which can rise about 20 feet – to achieve a 100 percent yield. (After one year, farmers will get a 25 percent yield, said Mike Napier, and after two years, they’ll be around 70 percent.)

Cut silos are fed into Napiers’ Slovenian manufacturing machine, a tractor-sized, conveyor belt, moving-part mulch mechanism that uses all of Mike Napier’s mechanical know-how to keep running. It arrived in two pieces, and Napier – who was a mechanic at the town of Wadsworth – welded the two together. (“I call him MacGyver,” Jenny said.)

The main internal purpose of the massive machine is to separate the cones and leaves.

Internal drums fitted with picking fingers tear off the hop cones, which are then released.

It would take 45 minutes to manually select a bin. The machine can process 200 bins per hour.

The hops then pass through a dryer that Napier built. The dryer is eight feet wide by 16 feet deep and about 6 feet high. Hops tend to contain around 80 percent moisture when wet. You need this number to be 8-10 percent. They are dried at a low temperature because producers – and brewers – want to preserve the oil.

An acre of hops can be dried in 24 to 36 hours. Dried hops can be pelletized, which must be inspected by the state, and the Napiers have built a separate storage barn. The couple say their pelletizer is one of three in Ohio.

A farmer needs $ 12,000 to $ 15,000 in start-up costs if he has the equipment, the Napiers said. And farming, of course, is non-stop work: “You monitor these plants daily, checking for insects and soil moisture,” Mike said.

Jenny Napier talks hops with folks on a Cleveland Brew bus tour.

“It’s not a quick comeback either,” he added. “We (Ohio) are looking at $ 30 million a year for outsourcing hops. Why wouldn’t the state want to help? We’re going to need help for the viability of this industry.”

Michigan’s hop farms have doubled their acreage in the past year, to over 600.

New York farmers are receiving state aid, Mike Napier said.

All three states are home to thriving craft breweries that share a similar weather climate. In the case of New York, agriculture has been a major industry for decades. Hops are returning for all three states, although the average size of hop farms is infinitesimal compared to the northwestern part of the country.

The resurgence of hops in New York City is due in part to a 2012 bill signed and pushed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The bill requires that a percentage of local ingredients be used in accordance with the financial aid – not only at the time of planting, but for several years.

“We’re really trying to create Cleveland as a center for craft beer,” Jenny said. “It’s great to be in this aspect of craft brewing.”

They are dedicating 1.6 acres to the hop crop, with more space in the spring, and in Ohio the soil is “perfect” for hops, Mike said. In dry weather, when it hasn’t rained for a week, hop plants need a gallon and a half of water a day. The Napiers – who have 1,200 plants – cultivate one grape variety, Cascade, but are planning more.


“I’m a long way from knowing it all,” said Mike, “but I’m going to get it under control.”

“Mike and I wanted to build a business to slow down,” Jenny said. “I like the dirt under my hands.”

Napier isn’t the only one with a green thumb and the will to work. The Ohio Hop Growers Guild, which has been in existence for two years, has about 50 members, and its website says about 30 beers were made last year from hops grown in Ohio.

The involvement of Market Garden

The Napiers offer a simple offer to breweries, clearly stated on their business card: “We grow them, you brew them”. Market Garden accepted the offer.

Brewer and owner Andy Tveekrem has worked with the Napiers as well as Haus Malts owners Craig and Andrew Martahus. Father and son run the Cleveland malt plant, supplying grain to more than two dozen Ohio breweries.

Market Garden beer was researched and developed at the company’s pilot brewery at Nano Brew. In addition to malts and hops, the yeast was cultivated at the brewery and the water comes from Lake Erie.

All-Ohio IPA is licensed to the production brewery, and 7.7% alcohol beer comes in four packs of 12-ounce bottles. A floral aroma soars before a sweet, healthy but not excessive bite of hop hits the palate. A pound of hops goes into about 30 gallons of beer. Market Garden beer cost over £ 100, said Mike Napier.

Foran of the brewery said the beer is creating “awareness for one aspect of the beer and brewing industry that is a rapidly growing economic engine – the local hop ingredient sourcing company. and malt “.

Market Garden Brewery’s All-Ohio IPA is shown where it started: at the Napiers’ farm.

Driving this business genesis requires equal measures of quality and quantity.

“Andy has been an advocate for working with some of these local businesses to develop the quality of their products,” Foran said. “We’re not a company that wants to source locally for the good of the local. It’s something Andy has been championing for some time.

“We would love to continue working with other local businesses to develop their products.

As hop prices rise, it only makes sense that at some point, businesses here would go into the business. The quality of the hops you can get in Ohio has never been the issue. It has always been the problem to give in well. “

And that, Foran said, is the ultimate message from the All-Ohio IPA. Local beer “doesn’t just start with the brewers, the people in the breweries and selling the beer and circulating it around the state. It’s about the agricultural suppliers.”

“We’re all in it,” said Mike Napier. “We’re about to open this business. I’m meeting people. It’s good, it’s a job, it’s work – but it’s nice.”

And the fun part, he said, is being able to pour the results of your work into a glass.


Terri S. Tomasini